In today's world, most companies span several regions and sell across the world. As Foolish colleague Morgan Housel notes, 10 years ago, less than a third of S&P 500 revenue came from overseas. Today, more than half of the S&P 500's growth comes from abroad.

And that number is growing. The truth is, investors regularly underestimate how much demand comes from abroad. More importantly, for large, multinational corporations that have already established a presence in their home markets, much of their future growth comes from abroad.

With that in mind, today we're looking at Boeing (NYSE: BA). We'll examine not only where its sales and earnings come from, but how its sales abroad have changed over time.

Where Boeing's sales were five years ago
Five years ago, Boeing reported a heady 71% of sales to the United States. Asia -- including China -- ranked a distant second, representing just 15% of sales.

Ba

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Where Boeing's sales are today
Today, while the United States remains Boeing's largest market, the company's selling goods to far more places.

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Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

The United States share has slipped to 59% of sales, while quickening demand in Europe and the Middle East has led those regions to command increasingly large portions of Boeing's total sales.

Region

5-Year Total Sales Growth

Asia, Other Than China 43.5%
China (1.4%)
Europe 137.7%
Middle East 672.5%
Oceania 33%
Africa (0.5%)
Canada (18.2%)
Latin America, Caribbean and Other 47.9%
United States 0.4%

 Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Boeing's increasing international sales are the result of growth in its globetrotting commercial airplanes business. Over the past five years, commercial airplane sales have risen 49% while Boeing's defense divisions have only seen a combined 3% rise in sales. Not surprisingly, the fastest growing regions in Boeing mainly purchase from its commercial airlines business. 78% of revenue in Europe and 75% of revenue to Asia –excluding China—came from commercial airplane sales.

Competitor checkup
One last point to check is how Boeing's footprint compares to some of its peers across the broader aerospace and defense industry:

Company

Geography With Most Sales

Percent of Sales

Boeing United States 59%
Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) United States 77%
Honeywell (NYSE: HON) United States 59%
United Technologies (NYSE: UTX) United States 53%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Boeing sits in the middle of the pack when it comes to defense companies with foreign exposure. However, today's sales totals don't tell the full story. For example, while United Technologies has a lower percentage of sales to the United States compared to Boeing, its proportion of sales to the U.S. has risen over the past five years, while Boeing's shrank .  

Still, the foreign sales figures at these companies outpace those at rivals focused more on defense technologies. For example, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) reports 100 % of sales to the United States and Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) reports 95% of sales domestically. To be sure, those numbers are likely overstated, since military equipment is often sent to foreign nations. Still, these companies' ability to capture foreign sales growth can't keep up with companies like Boeing, which enjoy robust sales to the commercial sector.

Keep searching
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Eric Bleeker owns no shares of any companies listed above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.